Tuesday, July 31, 2007

$ummer...It's Gonna Cost Ya!

Is it my imagination, or am I emptying my pocketbook on a daily basis? I thought staying at home with my kids all summer was the frugal thing to do. I mean, I'm not sending them to expensive camps or taking them to theme parks or even going to the mall. Nevertheless, summer vacation is not coming cheap!

After 17 years of marriage to the man I lovingly call "THE VOICE OF DOOM" when it comes to finances...I have been trained to pinch my pennies and scale down my spending. But the truth is, 3 months + 4 kids = excess cash outflow. Here are some of my expenses:

  1. Pool Snack Bar--Poor quality and poorer service, plus the prices are outrageous. But sometimes the ease of poolside dining is just too convenient to resist. Sure, you pay $1.50 for a watery soda...but, boy, I get thirsty out there yelling at my school of fish!
  2. Babysitters--As much as I would love to do everything "as a family"...there are just some places that do not like four children all at once. (Amazingly, one of these is the pediatrician's office. Go figure!) So, thankfully, all the junior high kids are home for the summer and ready to earn some spending money. Good sitters are worth their weight in gold...if they weigh less than 100 pounds, that is.

  3. The Library--Yes, I know. It's supposed to be free. Probably for normal people it is. But not for people like us, who borrow books-on-tape and foolishly leave the cassettes out where three-year-olds find them and drop them down the heating vent.

  4. The Grocery Store--I try my darndest not to shop with my kids. But sometimes, when your husband is flying to Texas and you run out of bread and you can't trust your 4 in the car with the AC on...you have to bite the bullet. That $1 loaf of bread costs you $50 worth of bribes, gotta-haves and broken merchandise. (Click here for details...)

  5. Miscellaneous--This category includes the gallons of sunscreen, dozens of t-shirts, bushels of berries, bottles of bubbles, boxes of sidewalk chalk, oodles of craft supplies, and freezerfulls of ice cream that the season demands.

So, there you have it. The reasons why I'm broke this summer. I'll start saving again real soon. That is, after our vacation next week...and back-to-school shopping...and Halloween...Turkey Day...Christmas...well, maybe for my New Year's Resolution...

Monday, July 30, 2007

Flyin' into Summer

Well, we are really getting into the swing of summer vacation...

It's a lot of work...

But we do get to "veg out" once in a while!

After we do our work...

We get to play.

It's the perfect balance...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Touch of Magic

Three years ago, I had newborn twins. My three-year-old wet her bed every night and tantrumed every day. And my kindergartener was essentially kicked out of public school for antisocial behavior.

Wonderful friends wanted to help...and they did. But there is only so much friends can do. An amazing extended family offered lots of support, but most of it was long-distance. My husband was a great help, of course. Still, someone had to pay for all the diapers and Enfamil...so basically I was alone most of the time.

With four kids 5 and under.

Then, an eleven year old boy swooped in on his Nimbus 2000 and saved my life.

I had heard about Harry before. In fact, I'd started reading about his Hogwarts adventures at the urging of family and friends. But, as much as I love reading and children's lit, I just couldn't get into the fantasy genre. His movies got great reviews, but I never got around to seeing them. I was busy living in the real world.

By the winter of 2004, however, my reality left a lot to be desired. Crying, spit-up, sleepless nights and laundry piles were all to be expected. The reality of autism in my golden, freckled five-year-old was a crushing life sentence.

This time, when I entered Harry's world, I brought a friend. A troubled, often misunderstood little boy who knew broomsticks could fly and cats could talk. A boy who knew how Harry felt, because he, too, had caused trouble he couldn't explain and had thoughts he couldn't control. Someone who also felt like a foreigner among Muggles.

Every day after lunch, I'd hurry to clean up and tuck the younger ones in for naps. Then, my little wizard and I would snuggle under the covers and spend an hour or two at Hogwarts. I don't know who needed the magic more, the listener or the reader.

The delicious descriptions and delightful details of Potter's world made reading aloud so pleasurable. His friends lived and breathed for us and became part of our family. His enemies became real, as well, and made our own Muggle muddles seem a little less tragic. Harry's magic spells charmed us through many dark snow days, doctor's waiting rooms, and long, hot summer afternoons.

Now, Harry's back again and a lot has happened in the meantime.

My little bedwetter magically transformed herself into a big girl. In true Hermoine style, she has mastered charms and can cast a spell on unsuspecting victims. Her beauty is second only to her intelligence. She is comfortable being the only witch among wizards.

The twins, of course, are following in the footsteps of the famous Weasley brothers. Like Fred and George, their two heads put together cook up all manner of mischief.

And, although we didn't have a sorting hat or receive an owl-delivered invitation, my oldest found just the right school for his needs. Teachers with the patience of McGonagall and wisdom of Dumbledore taught him to read and write. To make eye contact and speak up for himself. To make a little more sense of his own world, to get along with Muggles.

While Quidditch isn't offered as an afterschool activity around here, my guy has learned to fly on the soccer field, at the gym and in the pool. Sitting still through Sunday meetings takes more effort than winning the Triwizard Tournament, but he gets stronger every week. Like Harry, he struggles to know who his real friends are, but those closest to him are fiercely protective.

This boy has a lifetime of battles to fight. But, I know, like his hero, he can find the magic within.

Thanks, Harry, and welcome back!

Monday, July 23, 2007

I Hate Scout Camp

Just imagine your worst day ever, then multiply by 10,000. Now add forty screaming scouts and buckets of rain. Oh, yeah, and freezing wind. That was my day today.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Garden Fresh

It is such a kick to pick the fruits of our labors...even if the kids won't touch cucumbers and I'm not the biggest tomato lover. Zucchini bread, anyone?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

You Might Be Raising Boys If...

  1. You own a remote-control tarantula.
  2. You sort your laundry into the following categories:
    denim, khaki, camoflage and Spiderman.
  3. Your blue bathroom always smells a little funky.
  4. You know the exquisite agony of stepping on Star Wars Legos with your bare feet.
  5. You go through a jumbo jar of peanut butter and four gallons of milk every week.
  6. You can tell the difference between Percy, Thomas and James.
  7. Flatulence is the highest form of humor in your home.
  8. You are voluntarily going to spend 5 days at Cub Scout Day Camp. (Next week...pray for me!)

Monday, July 16, 2007


My bookclub is reading The Covenant by Naomi Ragen this month. It is about a group of Holocaust survivors who help a young Israeli woman dealing with modern day terrorism. I know...it sounds kinda heavy. But I am learning so much about the Middle East. I love when history is woven into a personal story...it makes it all come alive and seem so real. The Gabblog gives it two thumbs up!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Anatomy of a Swim Meet

If you are sick of seeing photos of my kids at the pool...I'm sorry. This is our home away from home this summer. Sunscreen is my beauty cream and chlorine is my perfume. Practice is every morning...9:30 til noon. Then, the meets are two or three nights a week and last about 4 hours! Here is a glimpse of last night's home meet....
This was Em's first "real" meet...she competed in 25m freestyle and backstroke.
Jake in the 8-and-under boys' "mousehouse"...the place where the swimmers hang out waiting for their events. There is lots of waiting around...so they bring Legos, boardgames and lots of snacks! Note the black marker on his arm...each kids' events are listed so they know which event, lane and stroke to line up for!
Since it was her first meet, Em's swim team "big buddy" brought her a goodie bag to wish her luck. She was thrilled!
Who knew swimming was such a dangerous sport?
Jake sporting a bruised cheek and black eye...that's what happens when you and your friends are climbing on stacks of pool chairs during practice. WHOOPS!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Twinsanity H2O

Today was the twins' last day of lessons....
I don't know who was happier....
the teachers or the mom!
(It was a disaster...don't let the cute swimsuits fool ya.)

If you're this cute...you can get away with cleats as formal footwear!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Chick Lit Quickie

This is such a fun book! If you love Jane Austen, her books, movies and leading men...you will enjoy Austenland by Shannon Hale. I loved picturing it as a movie, with Hugh Grant and Gwyneth Paltrow as the romantic leads! Enjoy...

Monday, July 2, 2007

Pioneer Woman

So, this morning, the kids were "sleeping in" (i.e. staying in their beds until 7 am) and I was spending some quality time with the Turbo Jam workout DVD crew. The peace was over by 6:45...bleeeeep, bleeeep, bleeeep...all three smoke detectors were going crazy. I guess they could not control themselves watching my smokin' hot bod kick, squat and lunge all over the family room!

For the life of me, I could not get them to stop. The "hush" buttons weren't working and just when I'd silence the one upstairs, the one in the basement went off, then the one on the main level. (So...I did get a bit of a workout...)

Hubby was at the gym, doing his own modified-post-bike-accident-smokin'-bod routine. I tried calling him on his phone to get help, since now everyone was up and crying and I was getting a serious headache after 45 minutes of bleepity bleeps. But, even if he had taken his phone to the gym instead of leaving it on his desk, it would have done me no good...since my cordless phone was making strange clicking noises and giving me nothing but static. Plus, the toaster burned the Eggos.

AAAAARGH...technology! I hate being its slave. There are way too many things in my life that need recharging, booting up, downloading, and programming...and those are just the five people I live with! Who has time for the DVD player which is making a strange humming sound, the dishwasher that beeps every five minutes to remind you to unload (DUH!), or the randomly sparking microwave?

I have decided that maybe the pioneer times weren't so bad after all. I'm sure Laura Ingalls never shouted obscenities at her computer screen. Willa Cather probably never tried burying her Razr V3 in a bag of rice for three days, hoping it would absorb the moisture and her husband would never discover that she had accidently dropped her new birthday cellphone into the Atlantic. (Sorry, hun!)

Yeah, quilting bees and sewing circles are much more my speed. (Except for the quilting and sewing part...) Butterchurning might be kinda fun. Maybe. I mean, I guess if you survived all the influenza and small pox outbreaks and the Indian attacks, chopping your own firewood and plucking your own chickens would be almost as good as a pedicure.

OK, OK...I would miss online shopping, my i-Pod shuffle and lycra spandex. Not to mention ATM machines and caller ID. Since there was no IVF in those days, I guess I wouldn't miss the Huggies...but I'd really miss the hugs. And, of course, without this bleepity-bleep technology, there would be no Gab Blog...'nuf said?

Time to go charge up the Razr!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Diet Starts Tomorrow

This weekend has been so delightful. No humidity. No playdates. No soccer games, swim meets or birthday parties. No commitments. We've just been hanging out and playing together. Such a restful change of pace.

To celebrate we had a scrumptious feast tonight, which seemed even more delicious thanks to the perfect backyard setting, including four very nicely (!) behaved children around the table. (The fact that it was fast Sunday didn't hurt either...)

The Menu:
BBQ baby back ribs
sweet Jersey corn on the cob
crisp spinach salad
buttermilk corn bread & honey butter
green beans
caramel corn, watermelon
and a game of wiffle ball
Buttermilk Corn Bread
(I got this recipe from my mother-in-law...it is really corn cake. Love it! Love it!)
Mix 1 stick melted butter with 1 cup sugar. Add 2 eggs. In a small bowl, combine 1 cup buttermilk and 1 tsp. baking soda. Then add to butter mixture. Stir in 1 cup flour, 1 tsp. salt and 1 c. cornmeal. Mix with a fork and pour into greased 9x13 inch pan. (For thicker slices, use a 9 inch square pan.) Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.
Serve with honey butter:
1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup soft butter, 1/2 tsp. vanilla and one egg yolk. Whip.
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